LEDUC, Alberta – Josh Pauls (Green Brook, N.J.) scored 19 seconds into overtime and the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team defeated Russia, 2-1, to win the 2015 World Sled Hockey Challenge for the second time in three years.
"It's always fun to win," said Jeff Sauer, head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. "With this being only our fifth game of the season, it's great for our young players to defeat a team like Russia in a meaningful game like this."
Both teams exchanged chances early in the first period. Team USA nearly opened the scoring with five minutes remaining when Adam Page (Lancaster, N.Y.) chased down a loose puck and fired a shot on net that was turned aside by Russia’s Evgeny Plotnikov. Two minutes later, Ivan Berdnik scored off a rebound to give Russia the 1-0 lead, ending Steve Cash’s (Overland, Mo.) shutout streak at 101:42 minutes.
The United States evened the score midway through the second frame when Kevin McKee (Chicago, Ill.) collected the puck behind Russia’s net, wrapped around the net and got the puck past Russia’s goaltender. Tyler Carron (Fort Collins, Colo.) was credited with an assist on the play.
Team USA continued to apply pressure throughout the third stanza. Pauls nearly set up the game-winner in the final 45 seconds when he found McKee in the slot for a tip-in that forced Russia’s goaltender to make a sprawling save. Despite outshooting Russia 19-9 through regulation and 15-3 over the final two periods, the United States and Russia headed to overtime with the score knotted, 1-1.
Just 19 seconds into overtime, Brody Roybal (Northlake, Ill.) entered Russia’s zone and dropped the puck back to Pauls who beat Russia’s goalie with a wrist shot to give the United States the victory.
This was the second consecutive international tournament that featured the United States and Russia in the championship game. The United States defeated Russia, 1-0, to win the gold medal at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The U.S. National Sled Hockey Team will be off until it resumes play with a series against Canada March 24-29 in Indian Trails, North Carolina.
NOTES: Josh Pauls was named U.S. Player of the Game … Team USA outshot Russia, 20-9 … For full game statistics, click here …. Declan Farmer (3-6--9) finished with a tournament-best nine points while Nikko Landeros (3-4--7) led all defensemen with seven … Brody Roybal (3-3--6) had points in all five games … The United States finished a perfect 5-0-0-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L) for the first time in tournament play … For complete Team USA coverage, click here.
It’s an off-season that continues to be full of changes, reactionary and planned, as all of us in the USA Hockey Officiating Department forge forward in the new normal. Our efforts are consistently focused on ensuring safety, fun and development for players, coaches and officials.
One issue that continues to arise is the abuse of officials and the effects it has on retention. To counter and help improve the environment, USA Hockey’s rules sub-committee has been focused and committed to solutions.
This sub-committee was established to define and recommend programs to confront this problem. As a result of this, a first step was taken at the recent Annual Congress to amend the Zero Tolerance Policy. Several proposals were made and adopted by the Board of Directors to constructively confront this problem.
These changes strongly recommend things like game officials introducing themselves to the coach during warm-ups in order to start the communication process and set some guidelines for in-game communication.
The parents/spectators section was amended to clearly state the behavioral expectations of this group. Another strong recommendation added to this section was to establish a parent/spectator monitor by each local youth hockey team for all games. Ideally, this monitor will address and de-escalate parent/spectator behavior before it impacts the game and the officials have to stop play.
Also added, a reminder to administrators that they are responsible for taking any appropriate disciplinary action towards parents/spectators that are removed from a game as a result of a violation of the Zero Tolerance Policy.
Navigating New Norms
As we all still grapple with the effects of the pandemic, the Officiating Program has been working to develop effective ways to fulfill our educational responsibilities when it comes to the annual registration process. To that end, the only process that provides educational value and a safe environment is with virtual seminars. A format and curriculum was developed and approved by the District RIC’s. This was distributed to all of the District RIC’s for implementation as they see fit. Due to the many different and ever-changing restrictions around the country, if the situation arises where in-person seminars can be held then the District RIC can also schedule them as needed. The Virtual Seminar Program is the best solution for this season. As situations change, the Officials Section will revisit this program for all future seasons.
Every Tuesday, the Officiating Education Program will present an hour-long webinar on various topics of interest and importance to not only USA Hockey’s officials but the entire membership. These panel discussions will cover topics such as abuse and zero tolerance, communication, player safety, as well as items such as game management and positioning within the three recognized USA Hockey Officiating systems. Panelists will include some of the top officials in the country and other experts from the hockey world whose goal will be to inform, entertain and encourage the USA Hockey community to learn more about officiating.
Getting officials from their first year to their third season is a key focus for the Officiating Education Program. Helping officials understand the basics of the craft and giving them a supportive resource is what the Mentor Project is all about. USA Hockey is helping local Officials Associations put together the framework where a mentor gets matched with a new official and works with them not only in their first month or second, but is a constant resource for the new official throughout their first couple of seasons. Learning about how to read the rule book, navigate the challenges of getting assignments and become a proficient official are all goals of the mentor project.
Again, we hope everyone is safe and sane as we prepare for a different landscape of hockey – but we are excited to welcome it, and you, back to the game.
See you at the rink!